Acquia

Why Government Websites Suck so Much, according to Obama’s White House Webmaster [April 14, 2017]

Submitted on
Friday, April 14, 2017
,
Quartz

By Tom Cochran
Chief Digital Strategist, Acquia

Our interactions with government websites are often memorable for all the wrong reasons. Whether you’re trying to change your official address or applying for a local permit, you’re likely to see conflicting information, have to pinch-and-zoom a non-responsive design, or need a law degree to understand the five-paragraph disclaimer below a simple log-in form.

In a world where industry giants like Facebook run hundreds of user experience tests daily, why are our government websites so far behind the curve? I witnessed this problem first hand at the US Department of State and while running the White Houses’s digital technology initiatives under Obama. And I discovered that while change does not exactly happen overnight in these large bureaucracies, it is possible. And we, as frustrated citizens, should be demanding it.

The Trump administration is focused on upgrading a crumbling public infrastructure, proposing to invest $1 trillion over 10 years. Though not crumbling, our government’s digital infrastructure is weak and inferior. The systems through which we receive government services should be deemed as critical​ as our roads and bridges.

We must remember that our government is here to serve the people. Military jets should not fall out of the sky, filing taxes should not fail, and you should get your social-security benefits on time. Using internet services quickly and easily should be no different. Government websites exist to provide citizens with essential services and information, yet more often than not, it is difficult to find voter registration information or the form to pay your parking ticket.

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Brands Struggle to Deliver Personalised Experiences [April 10, 2017]

Submitted on
Monday, April 10, 2017
,
Digital Marketing Magazine

By Jonathan Davies

Despite the hype around ‘personalisation’ as a marketing trend, as many as 89% of brands report they can’t deliver personalised digital experiences, research by Acquia has found.

The research shows that attempts to deliver effective personalised experiences are being hampered because brands are struggling to get the basics right from both a technical and cultural point of view. For example, brands are struggling with a lack of insight into the preferences or identities of visitors (48%), lack of budget for the necessary technology (45%), lack of board buy-in (34%) and lack of content (33%).

These are the findings from the digital experience company Acquia’s new report, Beyond the Hype, which uncovers a huge divide between digital strategies and brands’ abilities to execute them.

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What Makes This the Hottest Class at MIT? [April 9, 2017]

Submitted on
Sunday, April 9, 2017
,
Boston Globe

MIT loves numbers, so let me drop a few to illustrate the popularity of a course called 6.036.

It is overseen by four instructors and 15 teaching assistants.

Lectures are held in 26-100, the school’s largest auditorium, with 566 seats.

But this semester, about 700 students signed up for the course — also known as Introduction to Machine Learning — according to Tommi Jaakkola, the computer science professor who created it. So at the first lecture, more than 100 students watched on a video screen in an overflow room.

Not enough students voluntarily dropped the course, so Jaakkola came up with some “preliminary homework” to weed more out, by giving them a sense of the level of linear algebra and probability that’d be required of them.

Why is something called “machine learning” so hot? And what is it? I dropped by Building 32 (aka the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab) last week to find out.

Machine learning, first off, isn’t about building smarter robots for the factory floor, or harvesters that work the farm more efficiently. The machine we’re talking about here usually is a computer. It’s ingesting a set of data, analyzing it, and identifying patterns. That might entail examining thousands of paintings to categorize some as Cubist and others as Impressionist, or looking at millions of mammograms to separate worrisome spots that lead to cancer from those that don’t.

Radiology today, notes Regina Barzilay, another of the professors who teaches the course, is largely based on an individual radiologist’s experience. With software, she says, “You can make the machine learn about the properties of a breast that will develop cancer versus one that won’t.”

The term “machine learning” is closely tied to artificial intelligence. “I don’t actually make a distinction between machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Jaakkola says. “They are both trying to solve the same thing — how automated systems can learn.” (Both machine learning and AI have deep roots at MIT, going back to the 1960s.)

If you’ve ever shopped at Amazon, relied on Google Translate, or let Netflix suggest a show to watch based on what you’ve enjoyed in the past, you’ve taken advantage of machine learning. In Amazon’s case, software looks at what you’ve bought in the past, what you’ve browsed on the site — as well as other factors — to put products on the page that are most likely to tempt you to click “buy.”

It’s a field that is advancing quickly. “For a while, I would select an article from an Israeli newspaper and use Google to translate it,” says Barzilay, a native Hebrew speaker. “Every year it became better. Now, it’s almost like turning on electricity. It does a great job. This happened within the last 10 years.” Building software to decipher lost languages is one of Barzilay’s big interests in computer science; a replica of the Rosetta Stone rests on the windowsill of her office.

Intro to Machine Learning involves three projects, which “connect the more theoretical, algorithmic stuff students are learning to actual data and problems,” Jaakkola says. For instance, that can entail looking at a set of movie reviews and writing software to sort the raves from the pans.

But the techniques learned in the course can also be applied to higher purposes, like predicting whether a molecule being designed by a chemist on the hunt for a disease cure will prove toxic to humans, says Connor Coley, a graduate student at MIT who took the machine learning course. When you don’t have to focus as much on the issues of toxicity, or whether the molecule you’re designing can be manufactured, that lets you spend more time focusing on the end goal, Coley explains.

One reason that Intro to Machine Learning is so popular in 2017 is that there are so many companies recruiting for employees or interns who understand it. In Boston, companies like Facebook, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Spotify, and the chipmaker ARM are hiring people with machine learning skills.

“There’s a crazy demand for it right now,” says Kat Bailey, an engineering executive at Acquia, a Boston company that makes digital publishing software. “There are more and more people coming out of school with some kind of training, but the demand is not being met.” For Acquia, machine learning might be used to automatically put a blog post into a particular category on a website, or connect it with posts on similar topics.

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The Great Struggle: Delivering Personalised Digital Experiences [April 6, 2017]

Submitted on
Thursday, April 6, 2017
,
Information Age

By Nick Ismail
The majority of brands have huge difficulty in delivering personalised digital experiences to customers, says Acquia

Despite the hype around 'personalisation' as a marketing trend, most respondents (89%) report they can’t deliver personalised digital experiences, according to research from Acquia.

The research has revealed that attempts to deliver effective personalised experiences are being hampered because brands are struggling to get the basics right from both a technical and cultural point of view.

For example, brands are struggling with a lack of insight into the preferences or identities of visitors (48%), lack of budget for the necessary technology (45%), lack of board buy in (34%) and lack of content (33%).

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Obama, Trump and the Democracy of Connectivity [April 4, 2017]

Submitted on
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
,
The Australian

By David Swan

Love him or hate him, US President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has ushered in a new phase of democracy, one we’re still coming to grips with, according to the man who pulled the digital strings for Barack Obama.

Tom Cochran, who had a four-year stint at the White House, now runs software-as-a-service company Acquia’s global public sector business from Washington DC, and he’s excited by the ease with which the US President can now connect with the public, completely bypassing media gatekeepers.

“That’s something that didn’t exist 10 years ago,’’ Mr Cochran said. “That’s a remarkable feat, and something we should applaud in terms of technology opening doors. The question is what do we do with that power?

“We’re in a very early adolescent phase of figuring out what are the rules of engagement here.”

Mr Cochran worked with his friends at Blue State Digital, and they started work for Mr Obama when Mr Obama was a “senator from Illinois with a funny name”. He said his signature achievement in the White House was We the People, a system in which everyday citizens could petition the White House, and force a response if 100,000 signatures were received in 30 days.

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Heh UK Gov – Check Out Digital Lessons from the Obama Administration [March 21, 2017]

Submitted on
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
,
Diginomica

By Paul Wallbank

Acquia’s Tom Cochran offers insights into lessons from digital government efforts under the Obama administration. He schools UK gov on the topic.

Successfully changing a public service organisation’s culture requires listening to staff, communicating the need for change and equipping employees with modern technology says a veteran of the Obama administration’s digital strategy.

Tom Cochran, vice president and chief digital strategist for public sector for web development company Acquia, was speaking to diginomica about his experiences in digital transformation with the US State Department and the Obama White House. He says: "I am a person who truly believes in the public sector to a fault."

At the State Department, Cochran was a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State responsible for the online and offline platforms for U.S. public diplomacy, focusing on data-driven decisions and international audience engagement.

Prior to his State Department role, Cochran had a private sector interlude as Chief Technology Officer at Atlantic Media after serving as the White House’s director of digital technology for two years.

At the White House Cochran worked on the President’s Open Government Directive, leading the team charged with providing consistent infrastructure across all the White House’s digital properties, including the “We the People” online petitioning site for citizens to directly lobby the executive branch.

One of the lessons learned by Cochran and the rest of the Obama team is the cultural change from running a campaign to managing the US government’s highest office is substantial. Something that’s been felt by the current administration.


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Internet2 Adds Acquia to its NET+ Portfolio [Aug. 8, 2016]

Submitted on
Monday, August 8, 2016
,
Internet2

Cloud solution offers Internet2 member universities opportunity to optimize campus experience and digital presence

WASHINGTON, DC, August 8, 2016 -- Today, Internet2 announced that cloud solutions from Acquia, the digital experience company, are now available to member institutions through its NET+ portfolio. Acquia provides a digital experience platform that empowers higher education institutions of all types and sizes to deliver powerful digital experiences that serve relevant content and engage key audiences including current and prospective students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The NET+ Acquia offering is now available to Internet2 higher education members. This includes Acquia’s product suite and services, offered at a discount and under the contract terms negotiated by the service validation participants. The NET+ Acquia offering provides a powerful solution to higher education institutions who are looking to tackle their greatest digital challenges. The following products are now available:

  • NET+ Acquia Cloud: Universities can take advantage of a secure, fully managed platform to accelerate website deployment, increase business agility, and speed time-to-market.
  • NET+ Acquia Cloud Site Factory: Universities can drive brand consistency across web properties and manage and govern dozens or hundreds of websites for their campus community from a fully managed platform and unified console.
  • NET+ Acquia Lift: Universities can implement a digital personalization strategy and deliver targeted experiences across devices and channels.
  • NET+ Acquia Cloud Edge: Universities can extend the security and performance advantages of the Acquia portfolio to the edge of the distribution network to deliver the best possible visitor experience.

"An extraordinary digital presence is not just expected of today's best universities, but a critical element of their engagement with students, alumni and the broader community," said Shel Waggener, Internet2, senior vice president of NET+ services. "The Acquia Platform helps our members effectively build, deliver, manage, and optimize their digital experiences. Their strong track record of quality, security, and top notch features makes Acquia's Platform the perfect tool to support the dynamic needs of our community."

"Colleges and universities are under immense pressure to deliver greater levels of success with fewer resources amid a complex and changing industry environment. Achieving digital excellence is a critical component of overall institutional success, and Acquia is proud to provide this strategic offering to Internet2 member universities," said Tim Bertrand, chief revenue officer at Acquia. "From admissions to student engagement and alumni outreach, the NET+ Acquia offering is uniquely positioned to support innovation across a wide array of campus digital initiatives."

About Internet2
Internet2 is a member-owned advanced technology community founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 provides a collaborative environment for U.S. research and education organizations to solve shared technology challenges, and to develop innovative solutions in support of their educational, research and community service missions. Internet2 also operates the nation’s largest and fastest, coast-to-coast research and education network, with Internet2 Network Operations Center powered by Indiana University. Internet2 serves more than 90,000 community anchor institutions, 317 U.S. universities, 70 government agencies, 42 regional and state education networks, 80 leading corporations working with our community and more than 65 national research and education networking partners representing more than 100 countries.
Internet2 offices are located in Ann Arbor, MI; Denver, CO; Emeryville, CA; Washington, DC; and West Hartford, CT. For more information, visit www.internet2.edu or follow @Internet2 on Twitter.

Mayor Walsh Launches Redesigned City Website: Boston.gov [July 20, 2016]

Submitted on
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
,
Boston.gov

BOSTON - Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announces the launch of Boston.gov, the redesigned digital front door for the City of Boston. The website features significant changes to the visual design, organization and underlying technology of the City's website.

"The launch of the new website marks a meaningful step in making the City's digital services accessible for all," said Mayor Walsh. "Whether you're a college student moving into a new apartment or a small business owner, our goal is to provide a website that is welcoming and user-friendly to all who visit. As a City, we are always striving to set new standards and strive for excellence, and we look forward to continuing to build Boston.gov together."

boston-banner.png

The new site was designed with accessibility at the forefront. More than 20,000 web pages and one million words were rewritten to make the site easier to understand and navigate. The City has made dramatic changes to improve ADA compliance, and Boston.gov is now also optimized for any device and screen size.

In order to build a website that reflects the needs of a large and diverse community, the City relied heavily on input from a wide variety of residents. A pilot version of the website, launched in early January, allowed the City to conduct rigorous user testing, including in-person conversations, focus groups, and surveys with residents.

"Boston is a leader in digital innovation and our residents expect great service from their City government, whether they interact online or in person," said Chief Information Officer Jascha Franklin-Hodge. "This project aims to meet these expectations by providing government digital services on par with those provided by leading private sector companies."

The new Boston.gov showcases many notable changes, including:

  • Design: Boston.gov features a new brand and visual identity for the City of Boston. The brand guidelines for the new site has also been made publicly available.
  • Content organization: Rather than organize information primarily by department, the new site allows users to access information through "guides", which feature curated content based on how a resident thinks about an issue, such as moving or owning a car.
  • Language: Content throughout the site has been re-written in a more welcoming, human tone.
  • Technology: The site is built on Drupal, an open source content management system which allows the City to utilize a large ecosystem of developers to adapt the site to users' changing needs. Boston.gov is also being hosted in the cloud to provide a more secure and reliable experience for users.

"Building a website that is welcoming, beautiful, and thoroughly useful has been a priority for our team from the start," said Chief Digital Officer Lauren Lockwood. "That philosophy will inform all decisions as we continue to improve the site."

The City will be making the roadmap for their website development public. There, the public is encouraged to submit their ideas for the future of Boston.gov as well as vote on suggestions from others.

The redesign was led by the City's Digital Team in partnership with IDEO, an award-winning global design firm, and Boston-based Acquia, a leading local technology provider.

"Our work with the City of Boston was an exciting opportunity to not only redesign their site, but to fundamentally change the engagement and connection city government can have with its constituents," said Michelle Kwasny, Senior Design Research Lead at IDEO. "Boston has invested in its citizens by creating a digital home that is open, welcoming, vibrant, friendly, and accessible, and it was an honor to work with their team to guide and support citizens through key life moments."

"The City of Boston is a leading example of what can be done when top minds come together to design a digital experience," said Dries Buytaert, Drupal creator and project lead and Acquia co-founder and CTO. "We're proud to collaborate with the City's world-class digital team, supporting their work as they reimagine digital engagement for Boston's citizens."

Black Duck and North Bridge Release Results from 10th Annual FOSS Survey [April 27, 2016]

Submitted on
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
,
BusinessWire

Open source viewed as today’s preeminent architecture and an engine for innovation, but significant challenges remain in open source security and management practices

BURLINGTON, MA – April 27, 2016 – Black Duck, the global leader in automated solutions for securing and managing open source software, and North Bridge, a inception-to-growth stage venture capital firm, in collaboration with Acquia today released the results of the 10th Future of Open Source Survey, which examines open source software trends on an annual basis. Notably, the 2016 survey findings position open source as today’s preeminent architecture, the foundation for nearly all applications, operating systems, cloud computing, databases and big data.

“When the first survey launched 10 years ago, hardly anyone would have predicted that open source use would be ubiquitous worldwide just a decade later, but for many good reasons that’s what has happened. Its value in reducing development costs, in freeing internal developers to work on higher-order tasks, and in accelerating time to market is undeniable. Simply put, open source is the way applications are developed today,” said Black Duck CEO Lou Shipley. “The future of open source is full of possibilities.”

In terms of the overall influence open source has on their businesses, survey respondents see it as an engine for innovation, with 90 percent reporting they rely on open source for improved efficiency, innovation and interoperability. The most compelling reasons cited in the survey for use of open source included flexibility and freedom from vendor lock-in; competitive features and technical capabilities; ability to customize; and overall quality.

Shipley noted that the 2016 survey results also show that the rapid adoption of open source has outpaced the implementation of effective open source management and security practices. “We see opportunities for organizations to make significant improvements in those areas. With nearly half of respondents saying they have no formal processes to track their open source, and half reporting that no one has responsibility for identifying known vulnerabilities and tracking remediation, we expect to see greater focus on those areas,” said Shipley.

“Open source today is unequivocally the engine of innovation, whether that’s powering technology like operating systems, cloud, big data or IoT, or powering a new generation of open source companies delivering compelling solutions to the market,” said Paul Santinelli, general partner at North Bridge.

“Our survey this year showed respondents report that in the next two or three years, the business models that will generate the most revenue for open source vendors are SaaS (46%); Custom Development (42%) and Services/Support (41%). In the venture world we’re seeing a new generation of open source companies pushing these models forward such as Acquia, Chef, Cloudera, Couchbase, Docker and WP Engine. Over the coming years we fully expect open core to continue to build as a revenue model while reliance on SaaS as a business model decreases as it did for the first time this year,” Santinelli said.
The 2016 Future of Open Source Survey drew a record 1,300 respondents from 64 countries and provided broad insights on the state of open source in a variety of areas, including business value, innovation stimulation, emerging business models, security and management practices and corporate contributions to open source projects.

Business Value
Open source is an essential element in development strategy with more than 65 percent of respondents relying on open source to speed development.
More than 55 percent leverage open source within their production environments.

Engine for Innovation

  • Respondents reported use of open source to drive innovation through faster, more agile development; accelerated time to market and vastly superior interoperability.
  • Additional innovation is afforded by open source’s quality of solutions; competitive features and technical capabilities; and ability to customize.

Proliferation of Open Source Business Models and Investment

  • More diverse business models are emerging that promise to deliver more value to open source companies than ever before. They are not as dependent on SaaS and services/support.
  • Open source private financing has increased almost 4x in five years.

Security and Management
The development of best-in-class open source security and management practices has not kept pace with growth in adoption. Despite a proliferation of expensive, high-profile open source breaches in recent years, the survey revealed that:

  • 50 percent of companies have no formal policy for selecting and approving open source code.
  • 47 percent of companies don’t have formal processes in place to track open source code, limiting their visibility into their open source and therefore their ability to control it.
  • More than one-third of companies have no process for identifying, tracking or remediating known open source vulnerabilities.

Open Source Participation on the Rise
The survey revealed an active corporate open source community that spurs innovation, delivers exponential value and shares camaraderie:

  • 67 percent of respondents report actively encouraging developers to engage in and contribute to open source projects.
  • 65 percent of companies are contributing to open source projects.
  • One in three companies have a full-time resource dedicated to open source projects.
  • 59 percent of respondents participate in open source projects to gain competitive edge.

The slide show providing more information is available at http://www.slideshare.net/North_Bridge/2016-future-of-open-source-study.

Future of Open Source 2016 collaborators included the following: Abilian, Acquia, Ant Systems, Appnovation, Appsembler, Ardent Technologies, Inc., Bareos GmbH & Co. KG, Black Duck Software, Capital One, Chamilo, Chef, CloudFoundry Corp, Confer, Coolan, Couchbase, Credativ, DEIS/Engineyard, Eclipse Foundation, EnterpriseDB, Evolveum, Grid Protection Alliance, Hewlett Packard, InfoSys, JFrog, Linux Foundation, Linux Professional Institute, MARSEC, Microsoft, MassTLC, Miracl, nexB, NGINX, North Bridge, Open Source Business (OSB) Alliance, Open Source EHR Alliance, Open Source Initiative (OSI), OpenClinic, Open-Xchange, Opmantek, OpusVL, Pentaho, Ravel Law, Red Hat, Rift-io, SDH Institute, Tecnisys, The Apache Software Foundation, The Document Foundation, Ubuntu, Univention, VoltDB, Wikibon, WIPRO and WP Engine.

Among the collaborators were all the North Bridge Open Source portfolio companies including: Acquia, Coolan, Confer, Couchbase, Ravel Law, Rift-io, and WP Engine.

Acquia Funds Community Development of Drupal Modules [March 24, 2016]

Submitted on
Thursday, March 24, 2016
,
ITWire

Boston-based open source company Acquia has announced that it will provide US$500,000 to the community around the content management system Drupal, in order to help in the development of modules that add additional functionality.

Drupal is free software developed originally by Belgian Dries Buytaert (seen above) and released under the GNU General Public Licence. The Acquia move has been prompted by the rapid take-up of version 8 of Drupal and the funding will go towards modules for this version.

As with many free and open source applications, a community has developed around Drupal, contributing code, modules and advice. Acquia makes its money by selling and servicing websites built with Drupal, with customisations aplenty to suit the customer in question.

In 2014, it announced a deal with the Australian federal government to build websites and has developed a modified version of Drupal which is called GovCMS.

The Module Acceleration Program has so far seen about 30 modules developed and another 20 are targeted in the next two months. Participants in the program include module maintainers and contributors, freelancers, and development agencies with Drupal practices.

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